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7 Growth Hacking Startup Success Stories for Inspiration

Updated: May 9, 2023

Advertising is expensive. Spending money on google ads, facebook or youtube ads is a very expensive way to acquire users. Startups usually have small budgets for marketing and they need to find creative ways to acquire users.

Startup owners and every established company have been using growth hacks for a long time to grow their user base with small budgets. The growth hacking strategies can be used multiple times by different entrepreneurs for their startups. Entrepreneurs, however, must always keep looking for new innovative ways to acquire users.

In this article, we will go through some of my most favorite growth hacking stories that can be used repeatedly by startups.

Gmail and ClubHouse

Gmail was launched in 2004 and Clubhouse was launched in 2020. They both used a “invite only” policy to attract users to their platform.

Gmail offered a free email account with not only the best user experience. This strategy gave gmail a ton of users initially. Once gmail became very successful, they opened it up for everyone to sign up.

Clubhouse was launched during the pandemic and people had a lot of time those days and this also turned out to their advantage. The platform was a great tool for socializing. It attracted influencers in every community a lot and podcasters, influencers saw it as a platform that complimented their existing social presence.

Getting invites from influencers in the community gave it a huge trust boost as well and gave it a VIP Feel.


Although hubspot was already successful at the time they launched Free CRM, Free website Graders, and many free tools. Hubspot is using these free tools that it offers to attract companies and users either to its mailing list or offer them premium products.

Hubspot was initially very expensive for many small businesses. With their free tool strategy, they got the customers into their platform and started offering feature upgrades for a small fee. Now they have a huge range of upgrades all the way to their premium offer which a customer can subscribe to.

Many other companies like, They use these tools to generate leads and grow their business


This one is very interesting. The company deployed a growth hacking strategy where it bought many domains reportedly around 23000. The company created micro-sites for each restaurant that didn’t have a website and allowed customers to order.

This first of all gave them a huge SEO boost and started generating a lot of orders for them. This is definitely a bit controversial as well so companies that want to deploy this strategy should give an option to restaurant owners to remove their site. Companies like postmates and door dash also use this strategy.


WPEngine is a site for hosting wordpress. This company used the strategy of referral to growth its user base. They offered an opportunity to earn up-to 200$ per referred customer.

Paypal also used this strategy in its early days to grow their business by 5% to 7% daily. However, their strategy was a bit expensive as they offered cash to users in exchange for referral.

There are many companies using the method of simple referrals where a certain percentage or a fixed amount is sent to either the referral or the referee.


Duolingo is a company that grew from 5 million to 200 million users in 5 years. One of the biggest reason for their success is an excellent gamification model and an in-app competition system that keeps users engaged to their platform.

Users are encouraged to invite their friends, and also see how they are ranking. The in-app experience and competition system keeps users highly engaged and motivated. They also have a streak system where you maintain a streak, you need to keep visiting every day. Many apps like fasting, and gym apps are also now using the same strategy of “Streaks” to keep users coming to the app every day.

Duolingo even offers a family subscription plan so you invite your family and friends to the app. This keeps the users and family more engaged with the app.

This success story is in the SAAS space and is used by many companies. Before mint launched its software, they launched a blog and built an audience through content marketing.Once they had a huge user base coming on their website, they launched the product and it became a huge success.

Although mint is a very known name, I have seen many entrepreneurs use this strategy where they write 100’s of blogs either on their own websites or as guest posts on other blogs. Interestingly I have seen some companies even use very low quality content as well to get success. i would not recommend this as it can create issues in the long run as google becomes more intelligent in grading content.

I would personally recommend researching the user base and creating high quality content as this can be very rewarding in the long run. also used a similar strategy.


Monzo is a mobile only banking app that grew to 250k users in two years. Their growth hack is very interesting but I would be very cautious using it :)

It’s a Queue system so they let in a certain number of users every day. Once you signup, you are in a queue and you can see how many users are ahead of you. The reason I would be very cautious using this strategy is because your app or the problem you are solving needs to be very very unique and good to use this queue system. Customers these days don’t have time to wait a lot for something


Hope you liked these growth hacking examples, we at on demand startups have used referral models, the gamification system and content creation strategies successfully to help customers acquire users. Contact us today to get consultation on the best growth hacking strategy for your app or startup

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